Learning Technologies - Essay Example

Allen and Seaman (2010) state that with the abundance of learning technologies, faculty members feel at an advantage as they are able to use these technologies in their instruction and reflect on their teaching practices. However, the availability of these technologies does not guarantee the efficient and appropriate use. Therefore, the understanding faculty perceptions provide valuable insights on the motivations and obstacles to technology integration (Ertme, 2005; Knievel, 2006; Oskia, Johnson, & Bateau, 2009; Kerste, 2011). While some faculty members tend to take advantage of the available technologies, others tend to rely on traditional methods for instructional delivery. Universities thus need to understand faculty perceptions and patterns in order to use these technologies effectively (Lane, 2009, Oskia et al, 2009; Lee, Cerreto, & Lee, J. (2010).  Faculty members need to demonstrate confidence in their skills when integrating technology in their traditional teaching. This means that their perceptions and experiences need to be examined in order for them to comprehend the best way to support the integration of learning technology in the classroom.

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E-learning technologies

Research on CMS features and tools report that many institutions invest huge resources in developing technology infrastructures, and offering faculty members forms of e-learning technologies; professional development sessions. These efforts create opportunities and challenges for faculty and institutions to effectively use CMS in teaching and learning. Despite the given advantages of course management systems to develop e-learning materials and activities, faculty members at higher education institutions seem to be slow in embracing the different CMS tools (Vrazalic, MacGregor, & Behl, 201; Prescott, 2013). Many faculty members are still skeptical about integrating different CMS tools to become integral part of their traditional instruction.  Despite the benefits of using course management systems to communicate with students outside classroom settings, some faculty members at the university in the Arab Emirates do not use it effectively. Blackboard (a course management system) is required to be used by faculty members to post their grades and enter attendance on daily basis whereas other features are not required by the university. Some faculty members tend to use Blackboard to post course syllabus, materials and make announcements to students while others opt not to use the Blackboard system at all. This mixed utilization of Blackboard is confusing to students and deprives students from varied learning and teaching experiences.

Integrating technology in lecture-based instruction or web-enhanced learning can increase the way teachers and students learn (Barker, 2002; Woods, et al. 2008). Therefore, effective implementation of technology in web-enhanced learning environment requires faculty members and administrators to collaborate to ensure productive learning experiences for students (Prescott, 2013; Lane, 2008). Administrators need to consider faculty members’ usage and perceptions of a CMS when developing training sessions for instruction and learning. This is because the experiences and patterns of usage of instructions may affect the integration of technology and students’ learning. It further ensures that faculty members are comfortable enough in the technology environment and resilient enough to adapt to the unexpected challenges that may arise in the classroom (Wingard, 2004, Lane, 2009; Li & Ranieri, 2010; Kukulska-Hulme, 2012).). 

Several studies have examined the faculty use of different CMSs tools in traditional instruction using either qualitative or quantitative research methods. Very few studies adopted a mixed methods approach to investigate faculty usage and perceptions of the CMSs. Thus, this study aims to address a gap in the literature by examining the levels of usage and perceptions of faculty in a university in the United Arab Emirates using a mixed methods approach.

Chapter 1 provides a background to the mixed-methods case study on the usage and perceptions of technology integration in face-to-face instruction to supplement student learning. The chapter includes a general and specific problem statement, purpose and significance of the study and an outline of the nature of the study. The chapter will also present the research questions, the conceptual framework that guided the study, the scope, limitations, and definition of terms. 

Learning tools

BACKGROUND OF THE PROBLEM

Integrating e-learning technologies in traditional classrooms has provided innovative ways for teachers and learners to participate in the learning process. Such technologies provide learners with more flexibility and opportunities to become active life-long learners (Sheely, 2008; Palmer & Holt, 2009). In addition, the time and physical flexibility offered by technology turns the focus from teachers to students (Morgan, 2003). Therefore, faculty members are expected to provide students with different e-learning experiences to augment their traditional teaching in higher education (McQuiggan, 2006). 

Although web-enhanced learning to supplement traditional classroom experience has gained popularity, especially in the United Arab Emirates, faculty members are not utilizing the e-learning technologies in different course management systems to its maximum potential (Halawi & McCarthy, 2007). University administrators and stakeholders in higher education expect faculty members to use different e-learning features in their education despite being unaware of the faculty members’ attitudes towards technology (McPherson & Nunes, 2008). Understanding faculty perceptions on technology may help universities and other concerned parties to adopt a tailored and cohesive professional development sessions. Understanding faculty perceptions could be valuable to ensure effective uptake of web-enhanced learning experiences for students because it could have considered “the final barrier that prevents technology integration” (Ma et al. 2008, p. 411). Understanding faculty perceptions and experiences with technology as an instructional tool in traditional classroom context is further important in developing workable and effective training sessions as well as technical support (Selwyn, 2007). 

Due to the rapid advancement in educational technologies, different software packages have evolved and are widely accepted, especially in higher education. Course management systems (CMS) such as Blackboard (Bb), Learning’s, Angel, Desire2Learn, and WCT among others have been widely adopted, and used in different institutions worldwide.  These advanced instructional tools provide educators and administrators with robust opportunities and innovative pedagogical choices to deliver classroom materials, overcome location and time limitations and enhance classroom learning and teaching experiences. (Allen & Seaman, 2013). CMSs have become critical to higher education institutions because according to Simonson (2007) going back to traditional forms of teaching and learning without an appropriate use of a CMS has become unacceptable to faculty members and students. West, Waaddoups, and Graham (2007) posit that it is prudent to supervise how traditional universities are adopting CMSs in their teaching. 

CMSs are software packages that allow university faculties to easily create, manage content, interact, communicate and teach online, blended learning or web-enhanced courses.  Using such ubiquitous tools in education has continued to transform the views of teachers and learners on the importance of dynamic two-way communication instead of the static one-way communication between the two parties (Ahmed, 2010). CMSs, in academic contexts, serve different teaching and learning purposes such as increasing students’ engagement in the course, interaction and communication among course members and instructors (Morgan, 2003). Therefore, the use of CMS has increased among faculty members in higher education over the years. Morgan (2003) further states that faculty use a CMS to solve certain academic challenges, manage course content and other related tasks. This is especially observed with large classes, where there is need for supplement class materials, increased transparency and feedback, and effective communication with and among students. Another important factor for using a CMSs is that they allow educators to attend to different students’’ needs and learning styles (visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners).